A randomised trial of prophylactic cranial irradiation in patients with limited disease SCLC and a complete response after induction therapy

In people with small-cell lung cancer, can radiotherapy stop the cancer spreading to the brain?

What was this study about?

Doctors usually treat people with small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) with chemotherapy, to try to reduce the size of the tumour. But some people with SCLC develop tumours in their brain as well as in their lungs. This is because the chemotherapy used to treat the lungs does not work in the brain. So one option is to treat people with radiotherapy to try to prevent the cancer spreading to the brain. This treatment was called prophylactic cranial irradiation, or PCI.

The PCI trial looked at whether giving radiation to this group of patients:

  • helped them to live longer;
  • stopped their brains working as well as they were before;
  • made any difference to their quality of life

This trial was also called UK02.

What difference did this study make?

This trial showed that treating people with PCI helped to stop tumours developing in the brain. It also suggested that PCI might help this group of patients to live for longer. But not many people took part in this trial – so researchers couldn’t be confident about this finding.

Researchers brought together the results of all of the trials looking at whether PCI could help people with small cell lung cancer, by doing a systematic review and meta-analysis. The results of this review meant that researchers could be much more confident about suggesting that PCI could help people with small cell lung cancer to live for longer. As a result of this trial and the meta-analysis that was done afterwards, PCI is widely used by doctors to treat this group of patients.

Type of study

Randomised trial

Contact details


Who funded the study?

The trial was funded by the Medical Research Council.

When did it take place?

This trial recruited patients between 1987 and 1995. The results of the trial were published in 1997.

Who was included?

314 patients with small-cell lung cancer who had been successfully treated with chemotherapy.